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"also have at least one right timing cover bolt that doesn't want to budge; both my 10mm wrench & socket (both in very good condition) couldn't get a solid hold on it; I started to strip the head with vise grips. Ideas?"

You can try a "rounded nut/bolt socket" from Sears. These will sometimes grab a worn nut/bolt head and allow removal. Other option is to drill or grind it out and replace the cover segment or leave that bolt out in future. I had one stud strip (stud rotated in the plastic rear cover).

"Lastly for now what size socket does the crank shaft pulley bolt take? I figure I'll replace the timing belt while I'm at it so want to put #1 at TDC. And can a chain wrench be rented at like AutoZone? I want to use the right tool on the pulley itself but don't really see my needing a chain wrench for anything else (how much are they to buy?)"

I ran into this problem w/ my metric impact socket set. I had 21mm and 24mm sizes which were too tight and too loose, respectively. I found my 7/8" SAE deep impact socket was a snug fit and used it. This suggest that 23mm is right size (7/8" = 22.225mm).

I suggest reading my post and ArizonaSubaru's post on replacing head gsskets "in place", if that is your plan.

good luck
 

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"I do have to pick up a set of metric star driver bits today as the heads themselves are secured with them; so far everything else has been 10 or 12 mm bolts/nuts, with some 14mm and a couple phillips screws."

If you have Single Overhead Cam (SOHC), the bolts only require 12-pt socket to engage them. The DOHC does require removal of valve train assembly to access the head bolts.

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Water pump yes, Oil Pump no. Some remove oil pump, tighten rear screws (prone to loosen), and reseal. I have not done this when opportunity arose.

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That should do it. I don't know how sensitve the Forester is to trapped air. Some vehicles have a problem. I've had a problem w/ bleeding air one time on an Accord.

It shouldn't take more than 1-2 mins to circulate out trapped air, and refill the cooling system.

good luck
 
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